A Purveyor of Fine Literature

W&T shop frontHang on a moment, I hear you say – what does a bookshop have to do with a street food market? All will become clear…

Our second vendor can only be described as the perfect bookshop. Still… what does this have to do with food, I hear you holler. Bear with me…

Woolfson & Tay is a local independent bookshop, very conveniently placed just around the corner from my office, and a mere skip and a hop from the venue on Union Street, where our first pop-up market is being held. Originally the bookshop was in that delightful corner of London that is Bermondsey Square and I tried to make it over there whenever I could. Their selection of books is thoughtful and seems to cover the whole spectrum of fiction and non-fiction that particularly tickles my fancy. A cookery book or travel writing, new novels or classics, children’s book or minority writing – it’s all there with handy tips from the team on which are their recommended reads, or you could have a chat with them about the books if you needed a bit of a steer. But when their lease came up, they moved into Bear Lane and that’s when I really got to know more about them.

Imagine my excitement, whilst plodding my weary way to work one morning to see a sign go up in an empty unit proclaiming that W&T would be opening there soon. Ooo – straight off to the internet went I, and lo and behold, it was true – W&T were coming! And what’s that – they hold author talks and events… and they have tai chi classes on Saturdays… and they have hot beverages and amazing cakes by Kaelie…

Cakes by Kaelie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

an excessively cute dog

Matzo

 

…and, this is when I nearly fell off my chair… HOT ASIAN LUNCHES. Oh… my… god… that I didn’t know… is this the perfect bookshop or what?

Next thought in my mind was – what kind of Asian lunches? They were still in the process of refurbishing and there were no details on the proposed menu on the website yet. Still, this was a big step in my evil aim to make this part of London my little South East Asian culinary enclave. I had a suspicion that Tay might be Malaysian which could only bode well. As countdown commenced to their opening day, they announced a soft opening – no lunches yet but soon to follow. Positively champing at the bit by this point, their menu went up for the first week’s lunches – a different meat or veggie option each day ranging from Malaysian chicken curry (yes!) to Chinese mushroom and chicken cooked with goji berries (sounded Chinese but could be Malaysian Chinese), and other tasty sounding dishes.

First lunch day – oh no, lunchtime meeting, I couldn’t go – but my Malaysian food obsessed colleague went down and came back with chicken curry and rice. He was unsure… needed more chilli and spices, might be watered down for English tastes. Oh dear, I thought, that’s a shame. But then the following week, nasi lemak was on the menu. Undeterred I was straight down there and delighted to see a huge vat of rich, unguent chicken curry swimming with curry leaves, star anise, cinnamon sticks emitting an heady aroma. This was accompanied by a thick, rich, radioactively red chilli sambal, ikan bilis (crispy fried anchovies), cucumber and coconut rice. With my bounty hot in my hands, back at my desk was the great unveiling of what has become a firm Bankside favourite. Oh the curry was good – thick and full of flavour. The sambal was sweat-inducingly spicy (and has become even more so over the months) and the ikan bilis were crunchy little morsels of salty, savoury delight. I thrust my plastic box of deliciousness in front of my colleague’s face who agreed that it looked much improved, and on tasting he proclaimed it so. A success!

W&T Nasi LemakWoolfson & Tay has become a firm lunchtime favourite at our office now. We takeaway several times a week and are sad when Frances Tay is away because she does the cooking, and we are therefore deprived of the tasty goodness they provide. As word of mouth grows, they’ve become busier and busier, and Tuesdays are now Nasi Lemak Tuesdays when we have to get down there quick before the food sells out – usually by 13:00. They are introducing another Malaysian favourite – curry laksa on Thursdays, and I can’t wait.

It was therefore a no-brainer when selecting vendors for the market to ask the lovely Fran to set up a stall to sell her delicious nasi lemak. I really can’t wait!

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